Alamo's Last Stand: Controversial Preacher's Ministry Raided by Feds

After his wife, Susan, died in 1982, he placed her body in a crystal crypt on his dining room table while his followers prayed for her resurrection; later, he was accused of spiriting the body away before his religious compound was raided by federal marshals in 1991, and her body remained missing until church members turned it over to law enforcement in 1998.

In the latest incident, the headquarters of his Tony Alamo Christian Ministries Church in the tiny town of Fouke, Ark., was raided over the weekend by more than 100 federal and state officials, and six children were removed from the compound while investigators searched for their parents, according to Arkansas State Police.

The two-year investigation was "aimed at allegations that children living at the Alamo facilities may have been sexually and physically abused," according to Bill Sadler, spokesman for the Arkansas State Police.

"We did make the decision to remove the children that we felt were in harm's way or in imminent danger," said Julie Munsell, spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

Ex-Followers' Bad Memories

Media coverage of the raid brought back terrible memories for Jared Balsley, a radio DJ, who claims he was regularly beaten by Alamo's aides and once when he was only 8 years old by Alamo himself after arguing with another boy over a Big Wheel.

"We were not spanked at Tony Alamo's house on Georgia Ridge. ... We were beaten," says Balsley.

"Beaten for infractions of his rules. Tony would order four of his biggest guys to hold me up spread-eagled, and then they would hit you with a board that was nicknamed the 'Board of Education.'"

Balsley continued, "There was a girl who had epilepsy and I remember her having a seizure one time, and Tony brought in dozens of families, saying, 'Well, the devil is in this girl,' and he had her hit, strung her up in the air, and said they would beat the devil out of her ... He's a horrible, horrible person. He makes Warren Jeffs look like an angel in my opinion."

Alamo defends his treatment of his followers but admits, "Some of them got spankings and I tossed some of them out because they were doing things that were against Scripture. They're miffed and disgruntled, and some of them bring accusations of child abuse."

Asked about claims that children were kept out of school to work on his line of designer jeans, Alamo makes light of the charge.

"I had adults working on that, and kids would come in and count beads -- like that's real hard labor."

Defending Polygamy

Alamo, who strongly defended the polygamy practiced by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Mormon sect after its Texas compound was raided in April, has long advocated that such unions between older men and teenage girls are God's will.

"What I'm doing is fighting for these people that they, the ungodly beast, is throwing into prison for marrying someone 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, if they've reached puberty," he told his radio listeners in an April broadcast.

In other radio sermons, Alamo contended that the Virgin Mary was only 6 when she conceived Jesus, asking his listeners whether that made God a pedophile.

Spokesmen for the FBI and the Arkansas State Police would not discuss whether an arrest warrant is pending for Alamo or whether he has been interviewed as part of their investigation.

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